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Train travel is a fascinating way to explore India. It showcases the country's immensity, variety and colour, particularly over long journeys.
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And possibly, like him, to add to it.

Ten top Indian rail journeys

As the Toy Train winds its steady way up into the Himalayan foothills, the man across the aisle peels a guava and offers me a slice. And we get talking.

In his yellow baseball cap, Rajeev Kumar, a telecoms worker travelling with his wife and two children, has visited Shimla, the hill station 7,ft up in Northern India, many times. When its construction contract was signed years ago this June, however, it was a purely practical project — a way of getting Victorian sahibs and memsahibs up to Simla, as the summer capital of the British Raj was then known, in comparative comfort. Until the line opened in , they braced themselves as they reached the town of Kalka for the final mile uphill haul — which they generally did by tonga small horse-drawn carriage or dhoolie, a sort of sedan chair.

My wife and I start our journey in Delhi, driving through the early morning mist to take the connecting train to Kalka, a four-hour journey on a Shatabdi Express, although in the end smog means we arrive almost two hours late. No matter, the Toy Train, its boxy cream and sky-blue carriages suggesting a fairground miniature railway, has been held. We hurry along to find our carriage and get seated. With a great blast on its hooter, the train sets off on its five-hour journey. The train trundles uphill, twisting and turning. Vast views of the plains open out and are then swallowed up by trees.

At many of the 18 spruce stations, traders are waiting with peanuts and popcorn and big chrome kettles of chai, milky Indian tea. More Europeans — particularly Britons — have come in recent years, he says. The sprawling town eventually looms into view, its houses stuck to the precipitous hillsides like fridge magnets. The street lights merge into the stars.

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A portrait of Gandhi beams down on him in his office across from a calendar of the East Lancashire Railway. He shows me round the station, with its curving platform, its refreshment room soup costs 15 rupees — 20p , its Coolie Shelter for porters and a stern notice: Everyone seems in a good mood, though I suspect the guava-peeling Rajeev Kumar may be feeling just a little disappointed: We urge you to turn off your ad blocker for The Telegraph website so that you can continue to access our quality content in the future. Visit our adblocking instructions page.

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India's Unending Journey: Finding balance in a time of change

Telegraph Travel Rail journeys. View our best tailor-made rail holidays.

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View our selection of escorted rail tours. The truth, as is often the case, lies somewhere in the middle.

India's Journey Towards Independence

The significance of the upgrade becomes clear when we look at the ratings upgrade record of the major emerging market economies. Of the 10 emerging market EM economies in the G20, India is only one of the two countries to have secured a ratings upgrade in the last five years, along with Mexico. Thus, India now ranks somewhere in the middle of the above 10 EM countries, compared to the situation in , when its ranking Baa3 was among the bottom three in the group, along with Indonesia and Argentina.

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How far India has progressed since then can be understood if we rewind to the period. The crisis also led to an almost immediate course correction, with the then central government, led by the Congress, tightening its belt and initiating reformist measures such as deregulation of fuel prices.

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  • The present government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party BJP , which assumed office in , has built upon those steps, helping lower the twin deficits and control inflation. The turn in the global commodity cycle, which kept prices of key commodities such as oil on the leash so far, also helped India improve its macro-economic balance sheet.

    According to data sourced from the International Institute of Finance, India was the second-highest recipient of foreign capital inflows including both foreign direct investment and portfolio investments , trailing only China, in

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